Suicide prevention: Spreading the Word

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By: Brendan Schaller

The recent passing of a Bloomsburg University student, although tragic, serves as a reminder that there people who need help, and one of the ways to help them comes in the form of Bloomsburg University’s Suicide Prevention Program.

The program is an initiative led by project director Dr. Linda Cook, professor of psychiatric mental health nursing at Bloomsburg along with part-time project coordinator Diana Leighow and project evaluator Dr. Brett Beck, professor of psychology.

Training sessions began about a year-and-a-half ago, but significant progress has been noticeable since last February, said Cook.

Sessions, called Gatekeeping Training, are three hours long and are offered several times each month. No sessions are scheduled until next semester, but there is the possibility that one will be scheduled during finals week of this semester, said Cook.

Community Assistants in all residence halls are required to take part in training sessions. Such sessions are also offered to all students and faculty.

The purpose of the Gatekeeper Training, said Cook, is to help make faculty and students aware of the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts when exhibited by others. The training is to give attendees insight into how to communicate with someone who shows symptoms and how to go about getting them the help they need.

The goal, Cook said, is to “try to teach as many people” as possible. She says that students struggling with such feelings are most likely to talk to their friends and family rather than faculty. That doesn’t mean, however, that faculty shouldn’t know what to do when they see a student having trouble.

Cook said the program has been attempting to connect with Greek Life organizations and sports teams to conduct training with these tight-knit groups, but have been unsuccessful so far.

The Gatekeeper Training sessions, Cook said, are conducted in small, interactive groups, where attendees discuss crisis situations and how to relate to those who are experiencing them.

The training sessions help people learn how to communicate with someone who may need help and encourage them to get the professional help they need.

Cook said that people seek help for all kinds of life issues. “It’s not a bad thing to ask for help,” she said. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

The Bloomsburg University Counseling Center, located in room 240 of the Student Services Center, is also a service for students to utilize. In order to receive counseling, one must be enrolled in at least six credit hours during the semester in which they are seeking counseling (or just enrollment during summer sessions).

Appointments can be made in person, or by calling (570) 389-4255, or call if there is an emergency that requires immediate counseling. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Sessions usually last about an hour.

Counseling is free for enrolled students on a variety of topics. Confidentiality is available. Medications cannot be prescribed by counselors, as they are not physicians. For more information visit the counseling center page on bloomu.edu.

This article also appears in the Nov. 13 issue of The Voice.

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